Big Z could hand Sens big loss

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Senators 3, Sabres 1

The Senators could take a bigger hit from Zdeno Chara's hand injury than expected.

While coach Bryan Murray denied a report on RDS' website -- which was later removed yesterday -- that Chara will be out six weeks, indications are his right hand may be worse than club officials believed and he will be re-evaluated late next week. That means there is no timetable for his return. The start of the playoffs is only four weeks away.

Sources say the swelling in Chara's hand hasn't gone down and there may be damage to one of the bones, which will keep the 6-foot-9 blueliner out of action for an extended period. Murray confirmed Chara had an MRI yesterday on his hand because there were also concerns about tendon damage in his wrist after he injured the hand in a fight with Pittsburgh defenceman Eric Cairns on Tuesday.

"He's going to be back when he can grip his stick," said Murray.

Not only did the Senators not have Chara's services last night vs. the Sabres, he won't be around tonight to shut down Flyers centre Peter Forsberg in Philadelphia.

"When he's out there, he takes away almost half of the ice and if he's not there, you've got to take advantage of that fact," said Sabres winger Mike Grier. "Obviously, when they don't have him they are a very different team, but I still believe they've got a lot of talent on that blue line."

Chara is, however, the blueliner who makes it all work for Ottawa.

Owner Eugene Melnyk is going to have a big decision to make this summer when it comes to keeping Chara and Wade Redden, both of whom will become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Both are going to demand big money on the open market. Don't think for a second somebody won't toss the maximum of $7.8 million US Chara's way, because it's going to happen.

Deciding whether they are going to keep the pair will be a big decision for the organization, but Melnyk doesn't want to find out the hard way what life is like without them next season.

That's why Senators GM John Muckler and assistant GM Peter Chiarelli had better hope that Melnyk is taking a long, hard look at his club this weekend.

Then, Melnyk can decide for himself how much Chara means to the organization.

MACH NINE UPDATE: Senators RW Martin Havlat hopes to see shoulder specialist Dr. Tony Miniaci in Cleveland on Monday to see if he can get clearance to have physical contact in practice. "I don't know the timetable yet because we haven't been able to schedule the appointment with the doctor, who is very busy," said Muckler. "Once that happens, we're going to have a much better idea."

DON'T PEEK AT THE STANDINGS: Buffalo G Ryan Miller told reporters before last night's game that the Sabres have to stop looking at the NHL standings. Miller said the Sabres are getting too caught up in trying to catch the Senators for first place in the Northeast Division and it's taking away from the club's ability to get the job done on the ice. "All we need to worry about is ourselves and I don't think we need to worry about what is happening in the standings every day," said Miller. "We can leave that to the newspapers, because they're writing about where we are at every day. We don't have to think about it. If we worry about where we are at in the standings all the time, then we're worried about the wrong thing."

AND ANOTHER THING: Binghamton callup Filip Novak, acquired from Florida earlier this season, made his NHL debut last night. "I'm pretty excited," said Novak. "All I've been told when I did get my chance to come up here was to do the things that I do best. I like to be able to move the puck and chip in offensively."

3 STARS

Selected by Bruce Garrioch

1. Redden

Senators

2. Arnason

Senators

3. Dumont

Sabres

Sun Rating: 4 out of 5

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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